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What is angiography?

Angiography

Angiography is an imaging test that makes a detailed picture (called an angiogram) of blood vessels. Angiography makes images of arteries and veins in the abdomen, brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and legs. 

Angiography shows blood flow and blood vessels that are obstructed, blocked, narrowed, enlarged or malformed. Doctors use angiography to diagnose diseases and abnormalities of the blood vessels, including atherosclerosis, blood clots, aneurysm, and coronary artery disease.

Your body has two types of blood vessels, the arteries and veins. When angiography examines arteries, the picture is called an arteriogram. When veins are examined, the picture is called a venogram.

An angiography is only one method used to test for blood vessels diseases and conditions. You may have less invasive testing options. Discuss all of your testing options with your doctor to understand which 

Types of angiography

The types of angiography procedures include:

  • Catheter angiography involves inserting a catheter into a blood vessel in your groin or elbow. The catheter wire is fed or guided to the appropriate area. X-rays are used to produce the angiogram (picture) of the vessel.
  • Noninvasive angiography uses computed tomography (CT), ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to make the angiogram. CT involves X-rays but MRA and ultrasound do not. MRI of blood vessels is also called magnetic resonance angiography, or MRA. 

Catheter angiography, and in some cases, noninvasive angiography, use a contrast agent. The contrast agent is sometimes called a dye. It improves the quality of the images. The contrast agent is given through an IV. 

Other procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may perform treatments during a catheter angiography including:

  • Angioplasty involves widening a narrowed or blocked blood vessel.
  • Blood clot removal involves injecting clot-dissolving medications into the blood vessel via the catheter.
  • Stent placement involves inserting a mesh tube into the blood vessel to hold it open.

These treatments are not performed during noninvasive angiography. Your doctor will recommend a catheter procedure to complete these treatments if needed.  

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jun 30, 2013

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Medical References

Angiogram. Society for Vascular Surgery. http://www.vascularweb.org/vascularhealth/Pages/angiogram.aspx. Accessed April 16, 2013.
Angiography or Angiogram. Society of Interventional Radiology. http://www.sirweb.org/patients/angiography/. Accessed April 16, 2013.
Angiography Test. Cleveland Clinic. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/Angiography/hic_Angiography_Test.aspx. Accessed April 16, 2013.
Catheter Angiography. American College of Radiology. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=angiocath. Accessed April 16, 2013.
Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. http://ccjm.org/content/73/Suppl_1/S62.full.pdf. Accessed April 16, 2013.
MR Angiography (MRA). American College of Radiology. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=angiomr. Accessed April 16, 2013.

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